International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

The ICC and Conflict Resolution

Courts Can’t End Civil Wars

In this recent op-ed, former South African president Thabo Mbeki and Columbia University professor Mahmood Mamdani argue that criminal courts and trials cannot resolve conflict or post-conflict situations. This is because these conflicts are political violence, not criminal, and thus cannot be addressed by criminal courts. The permanent assignment of victim and perpetrator identities prevents political progress, and the confrontational nature of trials makes peace harder to achieve.

While they are correct in that trials alone cannot resolve or fully address conflicts, they fail to recognize the role that justice can play in complementing peace. Effective justice, when properly sequenced with peace negotiations, can deter future human rights violations and address the grievances suffered during the conflict. The use of courts in a post-conflict situation re-establishes the rule of law and assists a society in moving past violence. Though Mbeki and Mamdani are adamant in their rejection of a prosecutorial approach to resolving conflicts, they have not fully considered manner in which justice can reinforce peace.

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